Manitoba

Rules preventing older kids from taking school bus mean 'scary' commutes for students, parent says

Parents in Winipeg’s Linden Ridge neighbourhood are calling on the Pembina School Division to change its rules on school buses.

Linden Ridge families want division to change rules to allow Grade 7 and 8 students to ride school buses

Michelle Tucker says 12-year-old children should not be denied access to school buses. (Gary Soliak/CBC)

Parents in Winnipeg's Linden Ridge neighbourhood say the Pembina School Division needs to change its rules around school bus ridership to make sure older kids can get to classes safely.

Students in kindergarten to Grade 6 can ride the bus, if they live more than 1.6 kilometres from their catchment school. Grade 7 and 8 students can get seats if there's space — but with new construction attracting more families to the neighbourhood, there's no room for the older students this year.

Michelle Tucker has two children who go to Van Walleghem School, in the Linden Woods neighbourhood. Only one is young enough to be guaranteed a seat on the bus.

Her older child has just started Grade 7, and now has to walk about 45 minutes to get to school — a walk from their Linden Ridge home that includes crossing four lanes of traffic on McGillivray Boulevard.

Linden Ridge families want division to change rules to allow Grade 7 and 8 students to ride school buses. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"This is a major highway," says Tucker. "It's filled with tractor trailers that are going 70 kilometres an hour. Risking an 11- or 12-year-old child crossing a road like this — it's scary."

Her part of the neighbourhood is mainly accessed by Linden Ridge Drive, but there's no traffic signal where it meets McGillivray— meaning children have to walk about 800 metres to Linden Woods Drive for a light to cross McGillivray.

For Tucker's kids, that creates a nearly two-kilometre detour to get to Van Walleghem School. While that might be manageable in the fall, she says, winter is coming.

"Our climate just doesn't allow for that," says Tucker.

'Increasing pressure' on spending: superintendent

The school division suggests students use public transit, but Tucker says that's not an option.

"Three buses kind of go in between the two neighbourhoods," she says. "But none of them goes from one neighbourhood into the other and gets them to their schools."

Tucker has launched an online petition, calling on the school division to include older kids in bus runs. She says about 150 families are affected, and the petition has already gathered 162 signatures.

The school division says changing demographics have made it so there aren’t enough seats on busses for Grade 7-8 students from Linden Ridge. (Gary Soliak/CBC)

Pembina Trails School Division superintendent Ted Fransen says the request comes at a tough time financially.

"It's no secret that school boards in Manitoba, including Pembina Trails, are under increasing pressure from the province and local taxpayers to be very careful in our spending," says Fransen.

"While that pressure has always been there, I think we're feeling it in stronger ways over the last number of years." 

Any policy change would have to apply across the division, he adds, leading to an even higher price for busing.

But Fransen says the school division is considering the request, and expects to give parents an answer in a couple of weeks.

Parents in Winnipeg's Linden Ridge neighbourhood say the Pembina School Division needs to change its rules around school bus ridership to make sure older kids can get to classes safely. 1:47

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